Before you read this post, I want to explain that this post is not about my opinions, or my beliefs. Anyone who knows me well knows how I feel today. As a journalist working for public media, I don't feel that it's appropriate to publicize them on such a large scale. Today I'm talking about what I learned from today, as I covered the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage.
I'm trying something a little bit different today... I'm going to be doing a timeline of my day. A lot of people wonder what I do as an associate producer. Although today wasn't a traditional shift for me, I'd love to semi-explain it... Also I'd love to document this day via the internet for obvious reasons.
6:30 AM - 8:30 AM
Good morning! I wake up early on days that I produce, mainly so I can be aware of what's going on in my audience area, the state, nationally, and internationally. Today was a huge international news day between terrorist attacks in Tunisia, France, and Kuwait. I jotted down some ways we could potentially localize the stories, but my station doesn't typically do international stories because we're followed by the PBS NewsHour and BBC World News. I saw the same-sex marriage decision might be announced today, but I stupidly assumed it would be pushed back until Monday.
8:30 AM - 9:55 AM
There's construction happening next door to my building. Unfortunately, this has lead to me having small talk with construction workers a few days a week. The introvert in me goes insane. These men don't know what my job is, and I don't plan on ever telling them.
"Casual Friday?" one guy asks. I'm not too casual: I'm wearing turquoise jeans, a printed blouse, and a cardigan. My shoes don't even slip-on or lace up. I feel slightly insecure, but then continue to walk. During this time I have a morning snapchat conversations with one of my best friends, as we do everyday before work, and I discover the new UF geofilter. I am very excited, as evidenced by this photo.
9:55 AM - 10:10 am
I'm switching from screen to screen. Four computer monitors, and no one is here with me. I start to panic for a second: the journalist in me wants to share this moment with someone. I remain alone. Then I look over to the livestream. There are flags waving. There are interns running. I still see nothing on Twitter.
Then it happens. I see the stream of tweets. The biggest news event that I've covered is here... AND I'M ALONE. I immediately send a text to Josh, and begin scouring through Twitter like crazy. I feels like forever until my reporter re-enters the newsroom (it was five minutes after the decision, tops). I tried to get his attention, when he looked up at the TV screen.
"Did they make a decision?" he asked.
"Yes." I said.
"Legalized in all fifty states."
10:10 AM - 1:00 PM
And that's how it began. My reporter and I began to make phone calls, send e-mails, schedule interviews. The day has begun, our old show is scrapped. My reporter sets up time with Equality Florida, while I sift through emails and begin to call local groups. Josh sends us emails and messages while he's out of the room. I begin to call politicians for comment, and turn on the charm. Voicemail upon voicemail is left. I beg to interns for interviews. Somewhere during this time Josh has come back and also begins making phone calls. Another reporter comes in. My TV reporter is out in the field. We're killing it. Each interview begins to get transcribed for web. I'm forwarding emails like crazy to the wonderful Matt Sheehan, our news director. I begin transcribing quotes. The phone calls continue, and continue, and continue. In between the calls
It's strange to think how four 20-somethings are accomplishing so much. Anyone who doubts millennials should enter our newsroom, because we were on it today.
It's decided that my portion of the A-Block (translation: the first set of stories during the show before our first commercial break) is interviewing local organizations against same sex marriage. I initially felt intimidated, but I began prepping for the interview with unassuming questions.
Sidenote: during this time I received unexpected personal news that upset me in many ways. Part of the reason that this blog is being posted so late despite me updating things most of the day is that I had to handle this personal issue. It's not something I want to delve into on the internet where everyone in the world can see it, but I'm glad that I was in the newsroom today, because pouring my heart into work helped distract me from other things. I am still human, and I still have feelings. I think it's important to address that. On major news days I tend to avoid those emotions.
1:00 PM - 1:15 PM
You likely don't care, but during this time I had a quick lunch. It was Wendy's chicken nuggets. They were kind of cold and I didn't have enough sauce. I still ate them all.
1:15 PM - 2:00 PM
During this time I played the waiting game for my first interview. Here's where I'll answer a few questions that you might have about why I ended up interviewing these people.
1) Is it scary to interview people who hate a signifcant amount of the US population?
One: they don't hate them. They disagree with their lifestyle. That's what needs to be made clear. A lot of these advocates are not homophobic, but they define marriage as between a man or a woman. Some are open to civil unions.
2) What do you even ask them?
I asked today three questions to each group, then branched off if need be:
"How does your organization feel about the legalization of same-sex marriage, and why does it not approve?"
"What do you have to say to people who disagree with your beliefs?"
"How does your organization define marriage?"
3) Do they say weird things during interviews?
Yes, sometimes. But everyone says weird things during interviews, no matter what side you're on during an issue. I say weird things during interviews. True life: I once told a high school journalist my favorite part of my job was using Twitter. There's no shame in my game.
4) Why did you have to interview them anyway?
You always have to get both side to the story. Why me and not anyone else in the room? That's a good question, Ali... I had more flexibility with my time. That's seriously it.
5) How do you handle difficult interviews like this?
Patience and understanding is always key.
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
I went through with my interviews: WUFT's online coverage of local opinions on gay marriage is linked here. Between interviews, I transcribed them for our web stories. I wrote a quick script for TV and Radio, and then continued to the next interview.
In between interviews, I'd check Facebook quickly. Seeing my friends' reactions to the ruling was incredible: from the former Republican Party intern, to the married gay couple, to high schoolers I mentored, to celebrity fan pages... Twitter was going crazy. Snapchat geofilters were created for the day. Heartfelt Instagram pictures were posted. I'm public about my love for social media. Watching it on a historic day like today was incredible.
4:00 PM - 4:50 PM
It's the last hour before show. My script is done. I move back to the superdesk to help Josh with whatever he needs. I still haven't edited any video today. I'm bad at being an associate producer. We check scripts, formatting. Matt is sitting next to us consulting with Josh.
We have a live-shot today. At other stations this means news vans and fancy equipment. At ours, this means skyping via iPhone mounted on a tripod. The joy of public media.
We're running behind because of constant updates and being short staffed. We get our last video in later than expected. We check the show one last time. The show is done... Let's do this.
4:50ish - 4:52ish
We're late, so instead of taking the slow elevator we run down the stairs into the control room. It's two flights, in case you were wondering. We actually did run. It's pretty much the only physical exercise I've done today except walking to and from home.
4:52ish - 5:00 PM
Josh and I are now with the technical crew for the show. In the control room there are multiple different positions, from director to Compix (basically the person who puts all of those name graphics up on the screen). As an AP, I technically have no responsibilities during the show because Josh calls the show. That hasn't stopped our production supervisor. Ken has "encouraged" (by that I mean forced after I made a sarcastic comment about working how I felt guilty just watching the crew) to run Compix all week. It's not a difficult job, but it's new! While I set up Compix, I get a push notification about Richard Matt (one of the two escaped New York prisoners) being shot and killed by police. Josh updates the script, and the graphic.
5:00 PM - 5:45 PM
I'm not going to comment on the show too much, but I really enjoyed the work we put into it today. We ran the show, which runs for thirty minutes. Then we discuss the show, both news and production wise. Today was the last show ever for one of our main anchors and one of our sports anchors. The team took a picture with them, and then we went on our way.
5:45 PM - 6:30 PM
Josh and I meet to discuss the show by ourselves. It's our last show together, and we went out with a bang. I get a new producer starting next week, and I'm excited to work with her!
One of our web editors has brought in her dog, and I just want to play with it for the rest of the night. Naturally, I let myself get distracted. The first thing I do when I actually have a stable career is get a dog. That probably won't be until I'm thirty.
I pack up my things, and head out. It's been a long, but rewarding day.
A few days sgo I got into a conversation with a friend about happy places.
First of all, I hate cliches. HATE. The term happy place sent me over the edge. I also do not believe that one person has a single happy place. I believe there are multiple places that I've been that could qualify as a "happy place."
I guess my original happy place was the woods. I grew up in a house in the forest, and I loved escaping to clearings within the woods. When I was a teenager, my parents hired a company to create a path in the woods. Although I don't go home often, I make sure to spend time on that path every time that I'm there. After a storm, a tree fell into the path. To go through the woods, now you have to crawl under (or climb over) its trunk. When I think of home, I think of that spot in the path as my happy place.
Another happy place of mine is the auditorium that I performed in high school... More specifically, the stage. When I acted in high school, that stage became my favorite place to study, to nap, to laugh, and to meditate. Although I haven't stepped into that room for more than a year now, I'll never forget the memories I made doing high school theatre.
I spent a week every summer at Warren W. Willis Camp during my high school years, which helped lead me to my future home: Gator Wesley. Here I learned how to be grounded, how to truly love, and how to move forward during difficult times.
After high school, I spent a year and a half at a community college. After very bad days, I would occasionally venture out to the beach alone. I'd lay out in the sun, despite the temperature outside. I went to various different beaches during that timespan. My favorite was a stretch in Ormond Beach that was always empty. The closest beach in Gainesville is more than an hour away, and doesn't compare to the beaches I grew up with.
To be honest, Weimer is my happy place. I never stop feeling grateful for the opportunities that I receive here. On bad days, I'm probably hiding in the courtyard or a corner of the AHA Lab, hoping that no one recognizes me. On good days, I'm hiding behind the Superdesk in the INC, or dancing around buildings, or staying quiet in the control room.
I can find happiness wherever I may be. There's no such thing as a happy place. There are only happy hearts.
If there's anything that I'm proud of, it's that I grew up in a family that encouraged hard work is necessary when pursuing your dreams. My father's famous catchphrase is "Work hard, play hard." That's what my family did as I grew up. My parents worked as teachers when I was a kid, and would spend hours each week being the best educators that they possibly could be. During summers, teaching was not to be mentioned. We took vacations across the country, explored, and "played hard."
During my final semester at Daytona State College, I had three jobs: up to thirty hours a week as a cashier at hardware store, 10 hours a week editing and writing for the campus newspaper about 40 minutes away from my home, and volunteering when necessary at my home church. During that time I also took classes, and prepared for my move to Gainesville.
One of my favorite stories to tell about that time was the day that every detail of my life collided. I drove to Taco Bell on my lunch break at the hardware story, and an extremely important source called me as I picked up my order. As I tried to balance my phone in between my ear and shoulder, I heard my name called from the back of the restaurant. It was a friend from high school who I hadn't seen in six months. I waved to him as I ran out the door taking notes from the call in a torn reporter's notebook. When I got home that night, I felt so guilty. While I thought that everything in my life was balanced, it was clearly not.
I'm grateful for the opportunities that I received in every one of those positions. Each one developed a certain part of my personality, and guided me to where I am today.
I have realized that every person is a quilt. We all have different details in our lives that form us. Each experience serves as a small patch. However, we're handstitched together, and sometimes threads fray. We need to be maintained and repaired. We might not look as beautiful and fresh as we did in the beginning. Sometimes we become ragged.
While my life is far more together than it was that semester. I do sometimes feel that it's difficult to stitch each individual piece of my life together. I think that my quilt would be colorful, but messy. It would probably be made by an eight-year-old who learned sewing to bond with a family member. Nothing would coordinate, but it doesn't matter. My quilt would be meaningful, and significant. Each piece matters.
What kind of quilt are you?
Multiplatform journalist. University of Florida Grad. Last seen at News21 and WUFT News.
"Good news is rare these days, and every glittering ounce of it should be cherished and hoarded and worshipped and fondled like a priceless diamond."